On Thursday, January 14 at 11:40am I received a call on my landline. I answered and the man on the line identified himself as Devon Brown, Badge #4698 calling from Publishers Clearing House (PCH). He then promptly provided me his phone number in case we get disconnected. He claimed to be from the Prize Patrol and told me I won! He asked if I had heard of the Christmas Bonanza Giveaway. I said no. He said there are three winners, and I was the 2nd place winner. He said I won $8.5 million dollars and a 2020 Mercedes Benz plus $5,000 weekly for life.
Devon went on to verify my name, using my nickname that appears on my PCH account orders and he had my home address. He then gave me a “Confidential Prize Package Code” and said give no one the code but him. Next, he said there is a verification process, and that I would need a Financial Advisor. Devon’s next question was “did I want to keep this confidential or go public?” I asked what he meant by go public. He said the win would be made public through Newspapers, Radio and TV. I replied, “keep it confidential!” He agreed that was the best choice.
Devon then said the next step was for me to speak to the main department to set up a delivery time. Devon went off the line for a couple minutes and came back and said he couldn’t reach the agent. We hung up. He then he called back in a few minutes. Devon said he wanted to put the Claims Agent on the line to arrange for the Prize Claim. He said there is no account or personal information needed, but I would have to set up the payment involved.
Then the agent said the first step to process and claim my prize is registration to BUY A $500 GIFT CARD and CALL THEM BACK WITH THE CLAIM CODE ON THE CARD. As a senior, and part-time employee of Contra Costa Senior Legal Services, I knew sending money or requests to purchase gift cards is a BIG RED FLAG for Scammers! Another red flag, encouraging to “keep it confidential, don’t go public with winning!”
At this point, I told the agent I work for a legal non-profit that helps seniors avoid scams that ask them to send money or gift cards or give the activation number for the gift card. That didn’t seem to stop him. He said something about Jehovah Witnesses, and others who don’t accept prizes and they have to do this. He said I could provide a photo of a check or gift card, and to check my e-mail address in 15 minutes or they would call back again. Needless to say, there was no e-mail or phone call 15 minutes later probably since I identified myself as working for a law firm.
I followed-up with PCH Customer Care Representative. She gave me the Scam Hot Line 1-800-392-4190. She asked me for the phone numbers and names. She said she would share the information with the Federal Trade Commission and in turn it would be shared with Law Enforcement across the US. She said to make a local Police Report. If a scam contact is received by e-mail, forward to email@example.com. If I get future calls, say “I know it’s a scam, and hang up,” because Publishers Clearing House only contacts a winner by mail. (Should a similar situation happen to you be sure to track phone numbers and names provided.)